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The Triumphant English Media Reaction To The Belgian Defeat

The Triumphant English Media Reaction To The Belgian Defeat
By Gavin Cooney Updated

Gareth Southgate has a genius for public relations: his second string were beaten by Belgium's B team in Kaliningrad last night, yet he remains the toast of Fleet Street. The result sets up a last-16 tie with Colombia, rather than against the much less-taxing challenge of Japan, whom Belgium will face. This is a triumph, see, because once England beat Colombia, they have an easier path to the semi-finals (were they to beat Colombia, they would face either Sweden or Switzerland).

While the 'beating Colombia' bit is far from a given, much of the English press seem to think it is, judging by the strangely triumphalist tones being roared from the back pages of English newspapers today.

Let's take a glance at some of the front and back pages:

There is, at least, a bit more nuance and ambivalence between the covers.


Writing for The Telegraph, Jason Burt lamented the loss of momentum:

Hopefully, Southgate’s master plan will pay off while he could argue that the whole world appeared to be telling him that it was smarter to finish second and it would show the kind of streetwise approach that is so often lacking. Except that was not the strategy at this World Cup where England were all about winning hearts and minds and attacking the tournament. There is a sense of momentum being checked.

 In the Guardian, Barney Ronay was unsure as to whether England had, in fact, Won The Draw.

England have every chance of beating Colombia. After which that side of the draw would present some relatively favourable options – as well as Spain, the best team in Russia so far.

Still, though, there were elements of unease. Mainly this was a letdown, a dropping of the throttle that felt out of kilter with the good vibes to date. It was, arguably, a basic misreading of the draw.

In the buildup the idea had taken hold that England would be playing their part in the football equivalent of a slow bicycle race. This was based on the idea finishing first or second in Group G made little difference, with Senegal or Colombia likely opponents.

By kick‑off this had changed. Japan were now the first-placed option and Colombia the second. There was a significant difference here. Top the group and play Japan; or come second and play Colombia, followed by A Hypothetically Easier Team in that half of the draw.

England could quite easily still lose to a strong, skilful Japan team. But the fact is Japan are ranked six places below Panama by Fifa and got to this stage only on good behaviour, whereas Colombia are No16 in the world and reached the quarter‑finals four years ago.

In the Times, English football's Man of Reason Henry Winter howled for some perspective.

That reality, that England are a work in progress, reinforces the need for some perspective amid the howls of disappointment last night. England are progressing under Southgate, a style and belief are being inculcated, and even if England go out against Colombia, then calm voices must silence the wails of censure. England are building. They need more strength in depth, and need Kane in attack. They need Henderson back in midfield.

Elsewhere, Martin Samuel admitted in the Daily Mail that Colombia are "useful", while the Mirror weren't going to miss the real story:

There was so much hugging going on in Kaliningrad it was a surprise there was time for a match.

Before the game many of the stars from both sides who play together and against each other in the Premier League greeted each other like they hadn't seen each other for years.

And on it rolls...

See Also: Michy Batshuayi Wastes No Time In Responding To Failed Celebration

See Also: TV Review - BBC Revel In Germany Exit As They Continue To Build England Hype

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